Archive | March, 2014

The Holy-Crap Moment of the Year

31 Mar

In truth I had given up on it.

I wanted it to happen. I thought it would be awesome for something like that to happen, but after seeing nothing of the kind my first year, and 365 posts later, I sort of just put it on the back of mind. I forgot about it. I thought stuff like that doesn’t happen to George Costanza people like me. It just doesn’t.

So I moved on and found appreciation in other small successes. I thought the little milestones I was reaching were awesome enough for me. Reaching 500, 600 … 900 subscribers. Getting 10,000 views. Blogoversaries. Blogger Award Badges from fellow bloggers. Hitting that publish button after figuring out the right combination of words to describe my latest shenanigans. Being part of a writing community who thinks I’m as cute as I need to be to do what I got to do.

Yeah.

Celebrating with a happy dance.

Celebrating with a happy dance.

All these were celebratory moments for me … high-five-worthy moments, chocolate worthy moments, Claim Jumper Chocolate Silk Pie worthy moments, Black Magic Chocolate Cake Worthy moments, and Holy-Crap worthy moments.

But this weekend … this weekend was the biggest Holy-Crap moment of my blogging existence.

I was Freshly Pressed worthy.

I was one of the lucky bloggers to be showcased on the WordPress Highlight Reel. I got my gold star. And that in and of itself was awesome enough. I was dancing to Pharrell Williams’s Happy all day. I was on a Freshly-Pressed high. Someone else had seen something in my writing. They’d seen it. It. And they were ready to tell the whole neighborhood.

I pride myself in finding the funny in moments that should normally make me jump off a cliff. I manage to write Saturday Night Live Skits of the I-Can’t-Believe-This-Just-Happened-To-Me Moments in my life. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and embarrassment, went on in surviving a life sentence within a dysfunctional family so when others can relate to my stories or I can make them laugh it pleases me. I was happy when I thought one of these comedies was chosen.

But when I realized they had chosen a post about my Dad it meant so much more, especially since the big Fight For Air Climb that I was doing in his honor was taking place this Saturday. I realized that even though my Dad had passed away a few years ago people were getting a chance to know him, and I was the one making the introduction.

It was definitely a Holy Crap moment and I was grateful.

I wanted to thank all of you who took the time to click the link, read the story, and join the ride.  Fasten your seat belts people because as my buddy Cayman would say … it’s gonna be Guatacular. And I also wanted to thank my loyal readers who discovered the story before it hit the front page. It’s been an awesome milestone I didn’t think I would reach, but so glad I finally did and that you were there with me to celebrate.

Giddy up!

 

 

 

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12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge … You Better Have a Glass of Milk

28 Mar

I love my family. I do. But just like any normal dysfunctional family you love them even more when there is a buffer zone.

Space … it’s essential.

And I was loving the 2,000-plus miles between us while she was on vacation. I felt like Independent George. I had no extra stress piled on me, no free-parenting-advice being thrown my way on a daily basis, and no Univision or TeleMundo. Well in truth I don’t mind Univision or TeleMundo, but what drives me crazy is the bad dialogue being exchanged between two really good-looking people in one of the four telenovelas she watches. The fact that I have to witness it because she clamps onto the remote control with a kung-fu grip burns me out.

For a month I had the luxury of watching television shows while they were actually on the air. No need for the DVR as I was in charge of the remote control.

And now that power is gone … that buffer zone is gone.

This called for some chocolate.

But not just any chocolate … a 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge type of chocolate.

I went for the big one: Black Magic Chocolate Cake.

 

Dude...definitely working it's chocolate magic to make me feel better.

Dude…definitely working it’s chocolate magic to make me feel better.

 

Chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate.

Dude.

I felt the occasion called for it and the Chocolate Magic didn’t let me down.

Rich. Moist. Decadent. Badass. Definitely a chocolate lover’s dream. It made me eat in slow motion — the kind of slow motion where you close your eyes, tilt your head back, take a deep breath, and just stomp your feet twice because it’s so good — yeah.  It made me completely forget about the non-existant buffer zone. It worked its magic and made my night, and what was even more amazing was that the recipe was easy to follow. No crazy steps or extra attachments needed. Just my kind of baking. The simple kind with extraordinary results.

But I’ve gotta say, you better have a big glass of milk when you dive into this … hmph … maybe two glasses.

 

 

Cake
  • butter for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup brewed strong black coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 bag (12-ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Butter and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. You should have a thin batter.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans to wire racks.
  • Cool completely before frosting.
To prepare the frosting, place chopped chocolate in a medium mixing bowl; set aside.
  • Place whipping cream and butter in saucepan and cook over medium heat to just a boil.
  • Pour cream mixture over chocolate; whisk vigorously until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  • Remove from fridge and stir; refrigerate about 1 more hour or until spreading consistency.
  • Spread about 1/4 to 1/3 of frosting on one cake layer; top with the other cake layer and spread frosting on top and sides of cake.

 

Recipe courtesy of Diet Hood

 

You’re Not A Tourist, But Sometimes You Should Be

26 Mar

You see these things throughout your city, significant landmarks, places, and icons, but instead of parking the car, or planning a trip to absorb your city’s essence, you just make a mental note and move on.

But then you never revisit the notebook and the awesome pockets of pop culture peppered throughout your city are forgotten, until you see a tourist, or you’re picking someone up from the airport and start thinking of places you could take them.

Yeah. I had a revelation.

I realized a while ago that these inner-city adventures needed to be explored. I couldn’t very well experience the world and create bucket list items without experiencing the awesomeness of my own city.

You’re not tourist, but sometimes you should be.

Yeah. That’s exactly what I was thinking as I passed by Randy’s Donuts.

 

The iconic donut.

The iconic donut.

 

I’d seen it a long time ago in the I Love L.A.  music video and my Dad told me he’d take me there one day. It was actually on my bucket list. We passed by it plenty of times on our way to the airport or The Forum, the Lakers old stomping ground. But we never quite made it to the drive through window. I think my Dad might have stopped by on his own, a long time ago, before I existed.

But we never made it.

But that still didn’t mean I shouldn’t try to cross it off my list.

So when we were driving to the airport and my son happen to see the big giant donut off the freeway, I thought about it for a minute. You know, considering my whole junior high school debacle, I had to take a moment. But then I thought … Dude you’re not tourist, but sometimes you should be.

So I got off the freeway.

I gave my son and daughter the thumbs up. They smiled.

We made our way to Randy’s … three chocolate donuts were waiting for us.

And one glazed for my Dad.

 

 

 

Sandbox List Adventure 28: The LEGO Weekend …

24 Mar

I’m not gonna say I’m a pro at these things, but I’ve learned my lessons. I’ve got the lonely gray hairs to prove it.

They’re like badges of honor.

You wear them proudly because not only did you survive this Parent Boot Camp experience you actually learned to have fun throughout The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. You know what it takes to get through a twelve-hour adventure with your kids and you pack plenty of chocolate just to make sure that you do.

Yeah … that’s right people. I made the trip to the LEGO Mecca of the world and survived. And once again I left my crazy at the door and this ensured a stress-free occasion even though there were plenty of pitfalls trying to bait me.

But what made this particular adventure a little different was that we didn’t have to drive back home the same night. This proved to be an awesome decision. I find that sitting in traffic, for close to three hours surrounded by stupid or careless drivers, tends to create pockets of anger within my Zen Zone. So in hopes of avoiding any George Costanza blowouts I thought I’d add a little something extra to our Guat getaway. I’d add a Sandbox List Adventure Item … a stay at the LEGOLAND Resort Hotel.

Dude.

Dude.

If my son was capable of doing a backward flip cartwheel, he totally would have … but seeing how his acrobatic skills were limited the high-pitched yes and high-five were pretty  good too.

 

This was their theme song the entire day

This was their theme song the entire day …

 

 

Yeah ... this is where awesome happens.

Yeah … this was where awesome started.

 

No time to waste ... went straight for the rides  and waiting for their turn.

No time to waste … went straight for the rides and waiting for their turn.

 

After a few mini roller coasters and boat rides we headed into the LEGO Movie exhibit. Definitely one of the coolest things I've seen.

After a few mini roller coasters and boat rides we headed into the LEGO Movie exhibit. Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve seen. Made me wish I was a Master Builder.

 

So we headed to the workshop and tried ... we were no Master Builders, but we managed to create something worthy of a ribbon.

So we headed to the workshop and tried … we were no Master Builders, but we managed to create something worthy of a ribbon.

 

After being creative, we decided we had a need for speed. And so they got their licenses.

After being creative, we decided we had a need for speed, so they got their licenses.

 

Then we headed to one of our favorite parts of the park -- The Land of Adventure -- and tested our pilot skills.

Then we headed to one of our favorite parts of the park — The Land of Adventure — and tested our pilot skills in the mini airplanes with Ms. Earhart watching.

 

After all that excitement I thought I'd add some more to the mix and I surprised the kids with a stay at the hotel. Something that would not have been possible without the coupons and discounts a friend was able to give me.

After all that excitement I thought I’d add some more to the mix and I surprised the kids with a stay at the hotel. Something that would not have been possible without the coupons and discounts a friend was able to give me.

 

I found the LEGO pit in the lobby to be an awesome waiting experience for the kids while I was checking us in.

I found the LEGO pit in the lobby to be an awesome waiting experience for the kids while I was checking us in.

 

The LEGO artwork behind the reception desk was even cooler.

The LEGO artwork behind the reception desk was even cooler.

 

Before heading up we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant, which incidentally was pretty tasty. I was worry about buffets if they are not in Vegas, but this one ... this one was definitely tasty.

Before heading up we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant. And in truth, I worry about buffets if they are not in Vegas, but this one … this one was both adult and kid friendly. It was also definitely tasty. I had seconds and thirds … and then dessert … it was a long day.

 

Once we finished checking in, we headed to the elevators where Disco LEGO guy awaited us with the sweet sounds of the 70s and 80s that made everybody in the elevator busta move ... flashing lights and disco ball seemed to help the mood. :)

Once we finished, we headed to the elevators where Disco LEGO guy awaited us with the sweet sounds of the 70s and 80s. This made everybody in the elevator busta move … the flashing lights and disco ball were very encouraging  🙂

 

We got to our room and we felt like we were part of The Clutch Powers entourage (The Indiana Jones of the LEGO World). But as awesome as the room was nothing was more amazing than the bunk beds for my son. He'd always wanted to sleep in one. So I was able to cross off two Sandbox List items that day.

We got to our room and we felt like we were part of The Clutch Powers entourage (The Indiana Jones of the LEGO World). But as awesome as the room was nothing was more amazing than the bunk beds for my son. He’d always wanted to sleep in one. So I was able to cross off two Sandbox List items that day. I gave myself I high-five for that one.

 

 

 

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge … The High-Five-Worthy Cupcakes

21 Mar

I think I like it because it matches the blueprint.

You follow the directions and it comes out exactly as you would have hoped.

There’s always a little wear and tear, a little learning experience, and sometimes you don’t have a spatula attachment, or know what a spatula attachment is, but you use Guat muscle to stir things up. Doesn’t always look like the picture in the magazine, but after tasting it, it’s still worthy of a five-star review. Even after walnut spillage.

Matching your blueprint.

I like that baking does that. It gives me hope because it’s something that rarely happens in my life no matter how much planning is done. Something always happens. Life always presents you lessons at a time when all you really need are answers. So I’m grateful that I can control the outcome of my baking adventures. I’m glad that I can follow a plan and know the outcome is going to be high-five worthy. It calms me to know that I’ve got at least one thing under control amongst all the chaos. Even better when it involves chocolate.

Oooohhh … chocolate.

This week’s 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge was surprisingly easy and tasty. Cupcakes for Two. Vegan cupcakes if you could believe that.

Yeah, I couldn’t.

I’m a carnivore. Always have been so I was a little skeptical about this recipe. But it was on the list and so I was up for the challenge. I’ve never made something like this before … and after a stressful day I can say it was awesome how everything fell into place and the cupcakes were chocolatey and moist. They were high-five worthy.

I love cupcakes for two, even though I ate both of them and once again the frosting — Fluffy Walnut Mousse Frosting — was the best part. And even if you don’t make the frosting, the cupcakes, made with regular or soy milk, are worth it.

 

One of my main ingredients ... thank you to the coupons that made this possible.

One of my main ingredients … thank you to the coupons that made this possible.

 

Never roasted nuts for frosting before, ended up being pretty tasty.

Never roasted nuts for frosting before, ended up being pretty tasty.

 

Dude these were so tasty ... I'm gonna have to quadruple the recipe so I have enough to share.

Dude these were so tasty … I’m gonna have to quadruple the recipe so I have enough to share.

 

The recipe was courtesy of Edible Mosaic.

The recipe was courtesy of Edible Mosaic.

 

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
  • 1/8 teaspoon + 1/16 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant coffee powder (optional, but recommended)
  • 3 tablespoons milk, any kind you like (be sure to use a vegan “milk” if keeping you’re keeping the recipe vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, or other neutral-flavored oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fluffy Walnut Mousse, or any frosting you like

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F; line a muffin tray with 2 paper liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and coffee powder in a medium bowl. Add the milk, oil, and vanilla, and stir just until combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  3. Divide the batter between the 2 lined muffin wells and bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean, about 18 to 22 minutes.
  4. Cool 5 minutes in the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  5. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top, or frost with your favorite frosting, nut butter, or jam.

Notes

Measurement Tip: Note that 1/16 teaspoon is about 1 pinch.

 

Having a Foster Farms Moment

19 Mar

It’s been official for about three months now. But it just hit me.

I’ve had his personal belongings. I’ve had his paintings, artwork, and calendars. I’ve had his green cap that hung on the door hook. I’ve had his black Parker pens he kept in the cup. I’ve had our childhood pictures he kept on his desk. I’ve had the wrinkled postcards I sent him from Hawaii and Australia. I’ve had his black Samsonite briefcase. I’ve had all these things … but it just hit me.

I stood there in the meat section of the supermarket contemplating a poultry purchase that never came to pass. It hit me … in all my years of adulthood, I’ve never had to buy chicken … ever.

It has been one of the perks of being in this family. Free chicken. Since 1987 I’ve had that privilege, but after my Dad passed away in 2010, running the business became a little too stressful for my mom, so she decided to sell at the end of last year. And with this sell, one of the last remaining ties I had with my Dad was severed.

Gone.

So it wasn’t really a strange thing for me to have a moment in front of the refrigerated Foster Farms chicken breasts, although the lady in the black running tights and tangerine jacket seemed to think I was a little off. I remembered all the times my Dad, sporting his white butcher coat and apron, stood behind the counter slicing and dicing with his such precision. I remember the sound of the blades scraping against the knife sharpener stick before he began. I thought about how he engaged in conversations with his customers and laughed it up with friends over coffee.

Here's my Dad, starting out in the business, almost the same age that I am today.

Here’s my Dad, starting out in the business, almost the same age that I am today.

I remember getting behind the counter at 15, my first job, trying to slice and dice and all I did was worry my Dad, because I did not inherit his awesome Ninja knife skills. I had the wash the windows and clean the floors skills. Most chics get a quinceanera as a right of passage when they turn 15. I got a white apron.

I remembered all the Thanksgivings and the hundreds of free-range turkeys that surrounded me in the Rocky-style refrigerator. I remembered the paperwork and hundreds of orders I had to match up with our inventory. I remembered the white butcher paper the chicken was wrapped in … it looked nothing like the yellow Styrofoam and plastic wrap in front of me.

I never thought I’d miss chicken.

There were plenty of times when I got tired of it. I could probably write a cookbook with 101 ways to cook chicken that would rival the shrimping recipes Bubba was laying out for Forrest Gump. Not to mention the turkey. But I guess it’s like anything in life, you don’t really miss it until it’s gone.

So I stood there in the meat section of the Vons and just couldn’t do it. I needed something in white butcher paper. But everyone appeared to be on break, so I headed for the pasta aisle.

Chicken tomorrow.

 

For My Friend on St. Patrick’s Day …

17 Mar
:)

🙂

 

A good rule on St. Patrick’s Day … on any day really.

But no matter what … always be safe out there, my friends.

 

Feel Good Friday

14 Mar

Looking for a little pick-me-up?

Dude.

 

 

Looking for an international pick-me-up?

This version featuring my Guat people is definitely worth the watch.

 

 

But doesn’t matter which one you pick … as long as you pick one. It will definitely change your mood, change your morning, and change your day. It’s a Feel-Good Friday so thought I’d share the awesomeness.

 

Celebrating 600 Posts with a 12 by 12 Challenge

12 Mar

I took on the challenge. As a chocoholic I couldn’t possibly resist.

Although the title itself made me a little hesitant. I hate titles that tell me I need to do something. 10 steps you need to jumpstart your career. 10 exercises you need for flatter abs. 10 things your relationship needs right now. 10 celebrities you need to watch for. I don’t need to do anything. You don’t know me. So most of the time I don’t pay attention to stuff like this.

But something caught my eye.

I looked passed the bossy need in the title and just focused on the key words: Life-Changing Chocolate Cakes.

Yeah if you say something like that to someone like me, you better have the Bobby Flay-Tyler Florence-Food Network chops to back it up or we’re gonna have problems.

So I looked at the pictures, accompanying this article.

Dude.

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

Don’t know if they’d be life-changing but I could guarantee they’d fix a this-sucks-bottom-less-pit kind of day in a second.

Twelve.

Twelve ultra chocolatey cakes claiming to possess the supernatural power to change your state.

The pictures were pretty convincing, so I told myself I was up for the challenge. After looking at the pictures, my son said he would help too. Official test taster. My daughter would be the egg cracker and flour pourer. So seeing how I was fully staffed I felt I was properly prepared to take on the challenge. Twelve cakes in twelve weeks.

I figured this week would be the perfect time to launch this challenge, seeing how I wrote my 600th post and all. I figured it was time to celebrate.

Chocolate is always a great celebratory treat.

And Double Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream sounded like the way to go.

 

What did I start with ... only the best ingredient

What did I start with … only the best ingredient.

 

Added some fresh ingredients

Added some fresh ingredients.

 

I was able to turn the raspberries into this swiss meringue buttercream filling. I love chocolate. I really do, but this was definitely the best part of the cake.

I was able to turn the raspberries into this Swiss meringue buttercream filling. I love chocolate. I really do, but this was definitely the best part of the case.

 

Made sure I spread it over every crack and crevasse.

Made sure I spread it over every crack and crevasse.

 

My finished product ...

My finished product …

 

Let the taste testing begin.

The taste-testing phase begun …

 

Incidentally I have to thank my good friend Gisela for sending me these cake recipes.

Don’t you love it, when a friend gets you.  Really gets you.

If you want to try this recipe out here it is.

 

Sandbox List Adventure 27: Take Me Out to The Ball Game …

10 Mar

I’d never been. He’d never been . She’d never been.

It was a trifecta.

I can’t believe that in all my sports-loving years I’ve never been to an Opening Day of any kind and neither had my little Guats. As a sports enthusiast that sucks. In fact I shouldn’t even be admitting it, let alone writing it for all to see. I might get kicked out of the tomboy club for that. But I do mention it because that situation has been remedied.

I had the California sunshine, the national anthem, the popcorn, the cotton candy, the hot dogs, the Easton and Louisville Slugger bats swinging, the baseballs going into deep left, and then my son rounding the bases, helping his team with a 15-8 victory. It was only three innings, but he was 3 for 3 with 6 RBI.

Yeah … I gotta say … Little League Opening Day was pretty awesome. Even without the Cracker Jacks, I’m glad we all experienced this American tradition together. It prepared me for what to expect when we head off to watch the Dodgers in the spring.

Baseball … you gotta love it.

 

My son and his teammates taking the field as they announce the teams.

My son and his teammates taking the field as they announce the teams.

 

The teams cheering after the first pitch was thrown.

The teams cheering after the first pitch was thrown.

 

Something tasty for the kids.

Getting something tasty for the kids after Opening Ceremonies.

 

Something you absolutely have to have when you go to a ball game. You have to ... it's a rule. Sometimes you can even have two.

Then getting something for yourself, because you absolutely have to get a hot dog when you’re at the ball game. You have to … it’s a rule. Sometimes you can even have two.

 

But if you're a serious carnivore there was something for you too.

But if you’re a serious carnivore there was something for you too.

 

After all that food we definitely needed to work out, so we tested a few new bats.

After all that food we definitely needed to work out, so we tested a few new bats before the Homerun Derby.

 

But of all the things this Opening Day weekend this was probably my favorite ... my son, hitting one over third base.

But of all the things this Opening Day weekend, this was probably my favorite … my son, hitting one over third base and my daughter and I cheering him on. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that my son tagged someone out at second, but I loved this moment even more.